School starts soon! Knowing what to pack in a lunch that is actually good for your kids can sometimes be a difficult task. With all the food manufacturers advertising colorful, fun-packaged foods that SOUND great for your kids, it’s hard to say no to them or to your kids who look at you with those big, beautiful eyes and say “pleeeease, Mom”….and after all, these foods are convenient too, right? These easy, kid-directed foods are convenient, but that convenience comes at a cost you may not be aware of. In January 2002, the EPA stated that children are at greater risk from exposure to chemicals from foods and environment than adults because their organs, immune system and brain are still developing. That there are “critical periods” in human development when exposure to a toxin can permanently alter the way an individuals biological system operates. I’m glad the EPA sees this….now I wish they would tell the food manufacturers and initiate some changes! Let’s see if I can reveal to you some of the toxins hidden in their kid-friendly colorful plastic wrappers, and give you some good food, healthy lunch ideas for your kiddo! Here are some ingredients to be aware (or beware) of;
High Fructose Corn Syrup: Linked to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity, hyperactivity, memory, attention, fine motor skills and 9 of 20 samples contain Mercury.
MSG: An excitotoxin. Interrupts appetite control, mood and no safe limit.
Phosphoric Acid: Interrupts calcium absorption and use in body and neutralizes stomach acid. (Found in soft drinks)
Artificial Colors: Can cause hyperactivity, fidgetiness, irritability, sleep problems. (Found in kids yogurts, cereals, desserts, some applesauce, cookies…many places!)
Sodium Metabisulfate: (anti-browining, anti-bacterial agent) In sensitive people can cause wheezing, anaphylactic shock, shortness of breath, nausea, diarrhea, headache. (found in packaged fruits both “fresh” and dried)
Sucralose: (an altered sugar molecule w/ 3 chlorine molecules added) Linked with headaches & heart palpitations, and Thymus gland shrinkage (of 40%!) (Thymus involved in endocrine system with a BIG role in immune system function) Also alters the “good” gut bacteria (necessary for strong immune system). Effects can last up to 12 weeks from last ingestion. (Found in “Sugar free” foods and all kinds of sweet foods.)
Brominated Vegetable Oil: A flame retardant originally used on kids clothes. Banned all over the world except the US. Used as mixing agent to keep fluids blended together. Builds up in bodyfat tissues (as the body does not know how to eliminate it), and very small doses can alter the function of the thyroid gland. (Found in Mountain Dew, Fanta orange, Gatorade orange, Squirt, Fresca & Powerade orange.)
These are some of the bad boys. Of course sodium content and fat sources are important as well. (Stay away from Trans and Hydrogenated Fats and keep sodium intake daily at 2000 or below for adults and 1500 or below for kids) Now that we know what to look for and what to avoid, let’s talk about lunch!
Kids love these Lunchables, don’t they? Yes, they do! But they contain less than desirable ingredients in most of their varieties….so make your own! It’s easy and can be prepared ahead and refrigerated overnight. Get a compartmentalized re-sealable container (BPA free) and fill with actual fresh fruit slices, pieces of real cheese (with ingredients like milk, salt, enzymes, annatto or rennet), a few slices of low-gluten bread cut in squares, pumpernickel squares, flatbread squared, carrots & celery or cucumber sticks, rolled or cubed lunchmeat (nitrate & hormone free), or leftover chicken/beef/pork pieces cut into cubes, for healthy fats (which they need for brain and hormone good health) try some sliced avocado (or guacamole) or coconut, Nuts (Almond, Walnuts, Cashews, etc.) or a Nut butter to dip their fruit or veggie slices in. Kids love to build their own sandwiches/lunch with this finger-food style lunches! Other suggestions could be Flatbread sandwiches with hummus, lettuce, tomato (whatever they like) and a little lunchmeat (nitrate & hormone free). Slice their apples (or seasonal fruit) and give them a dip (a nut butter, avocado, hummus or homemade dressing is preferable over a packaged dip or dressing as they will have many chemicals as well). Slice fruit of the season and give them opportunities to try new foods. If they have said no to a food once in the past, try again as their palate and preferences change. A thermos will keep a crock-pot meal warm, or a Bean Salad cold and good for a satisfying lunch. If you want more ideas, many great and healthy kid lunch ideas are also available at http://www.pinterest.com/lauristrong/kids-foods/ or http://www.pinterest.com/lauristrong/yummy/
By keeping chemical intake, all types of sugars, hormone disruptors, neurotoxins and more junk away and out of our kids bodies, we help them become more mentally and physically ready for success in school! The food manufacturers may not have your child’s health in their best interest, but you and I do! Here’s to a happy, healthy school year!!
Lauri Armstrong, Degreed Dietitian & Nutritionist, CLT, Adv PFT.
Armstrong Body Systems